I have a scar on my finger today that reminds me of something I did more than 40 years ago. I was 5 or 6 years old at the time. I was in the backyard of my grandfather's yard watching his dog, Bo chew on a pork chop bone. For some reason I decided to take the bone away from him. Bo expressed to me that he'd rather I not do that by growling first and then biting me when I failed to take the first hint. I ran into the house crying and bleeding looking for someone to care for my wound. My grandfather met me first. "What happened?" he asked. I told him. He then replied, "Don't do that!" I haven't.
Some of the situations people get themselves into may seem to them harmless at first. They may do things like hang out with the wrong crowd and go to the wrong places. They may rationalize this by saying, "As long as I didn't do anything wrong I don't see the problem." They may see themselves as the exception to the rule, "Play with fire and you'll get burned" or "Lie down with dogs and you'll get up with fleas." And gradually the sinful environment they've immersed themselves into begins to chip away at their resolve. Before long drunkenness is not that big of a deal, profanity is just words, and having sex with someone you're not married to is just for fun. At first they ignore the "growling" of the conscience and do what they do because that's what they want to do. Then sin all of a sudden bites and it leaves a scar. It leaves scars that remain even if you've repented and been forgiven. It leaves scars of unplanned pregnancies, abortions and changing the plans you had for your life. It leaves scars of drunken brawls, drunken drivers and death. It not only scars those who made the foolish decisions but also those who were simply unfortunate enough to meet them on the highway. Hear the Word of the Lord, I Corinthians 15:33... "Do not be fooled: bad friends will ruin good habits." (NCV)\
Psalm 119:63... "I am a friend to everyone who fears you. I am a friend to anyone who follows your orders." (NCV)
We can try later in life to cover the scars of the choices we've made. But wouldn't it be better to not get bit in the first place?
Sometimes, we may act in a way that might make our brother or sister stumble. When Paul writes his letter to the Corinthians, he answers a question that sometimes might be hard to understand. He deals with our conscience and the people we are around. Why is one’s freedom limited by another’s conscience? The answer is love. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says this about love “Love does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered.” Love does not act with rudeness, Love is courteous and has manners. Love is not offensive to others, tactfulness and politeness are always part of a Christian’s behavior. Love does not insist upon it’s rights, Love is unselfish, Love is happy in the happiness of others. Love seeks the best interests of others.
Why am I writing these things about love? The answer is, because we are family. We get things done when we are united as a family. We have no time to look for bad because we are the family of God. It is an amazing thing that happens when a family is united, great things can be done.
I am reminded of this when I look at baseball teams that have won the World Series. In 1979 a team won the series with not the best of talent, although they were very good. Every time at the ball game a song was sung by the band Sister Sledge, which was titled, “We are Family.” We can do great things like the Pittsburgh Pirates. We can win souls with God’s help, what a great series that would be. Great things happen when we love each other and we act like family.
We have in our song books a song called “Angry Words” which goes like this, Angry words! O let them never, From the tongue unbridled slip, May the heart’s best impulse ever check them ere they soil the lip. The third verse goes on this way, Angry words are lightly spoken, bitterest tho’ts are rashly stirred, brightest links of life are broken by a single angry word. Words that are spoken can hurt. Also, words that come from our hand, can have the same effect. Many of us use social media to convey our thoughts. Most of the time it is very useful and may help another person, but sometimes this is not true. In a recent post by one of us we used Facebook in a way that caused hurt, not good. Our goal is to help each other along this path way we call life. We all have the goal of Heaven and each of us needs help along the way but when we make a comment on Facebook we really need to make sure, it really helps. A person made a comment on Facebook that one of us took wrong and we responded in a way that was hateful. This is my suggestion to all of us, write it down and put it aside until the next day and then look at the comment and ask ones self, is this really helpful or do I really need to say this? I am a fan of Death Valley Days, an old western done in black and white. One of the shows was about two wrongs don’t make a right. It was a young girl who had learned this from her mother and it is so true. Never compound the issue by making a statement which does not help.
James 3:5 says this “So the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!” This is also true with what we write with our hand. Let us all be so careful with what we write and say in our posts on social media, it’s there for all to see. Let our light shine all the time. We are part of a great family that should show our love for each other at all times.
In a resent comic page there was a quote from Pickles which said, “Common sense does not grow in everyone’s garden.” We know that everything we plant in our garden does not grow well, we learn from our mistakes. We learn what does not grow well and we can also learn what does. This is common sense, we are not born with it but we sure can learn to have it. Use common sense in our writings.
Do you ever think, I would sure like to know some of the people that I worship with better, but just never get to the other side of the building to meet them? We might just get comfortable with the people we have known for some time and never make the attempt to meet others. We are so blessed with people from different walks of life, that it just might be to our detriment that we fail to meet others. The larger we get the more difficult it will be to get to know each other, but we all need to start somewhere and today just might be that time. In Acts 2:44 “And all those who believed were together and had all things in common.” And then verse 46 “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.” We don’t all live as close together as the first century Christians did. That does not mean we should not get to know each other and be close to each other. It does take work but it can be done with some effort.
One of our dear sisters asked me to write about this because she would like to know more about the people she worships with. We all can make an effort to get to know each other better, but we need to take the first step by talking to someone we have not talked to before. It’s a great thing to do and we can find much joy in getting to know someone.
We sing the song A Common Love which goes like this “A common love for each other, a common gift to the Savior, a common bond holding us to the Lord; A common strength when we’re weary, a common hope for tomorrow, a common joy in the truth of God’s word.” We sure need a common love for each other if we love the Lord. We all do a pretty good job at getting to know each other but that does not mean we can’t do even more in this area of our lives.
Christianity continues to be faced with many challenges. As we are keenly aware, one of those challenges in the recent past involved whether or not the “practice” of Christianity would continue to enjoy the same freedoms and liberties that other “religions” enjoy. Despite the favorable changes that are beginning to take place within the political and government arenas, pessimism remains and continues to impact the LORD’s Church negatively. Congregations agonize and have become reluctant to preach or teach on certain subjects/topics for fear of losing members and/or inviting governmental or societal wrath upon the church. Sadly, many congregations of the LORD’s church have grown weary or stagnant, without real spiritual development. More than one congregation has engrossed itself in anxious activity that consumes time and attention, too concerned over things of “keeping” Church or legal issues, to the detriment of developing real spiritual depth and maturity. Others, more sadly, have succumbed to the influence of the Devil and have joined efforts to completely change the worship of the church of our Savior, Jesus Christ, into an entertainment arena patterned after many of the so-called mega-churches in the Christian denominations. Some have even “doubled down” on apostate efforts very much like previous movements within the LORD’s church to radically restructure His church into something not remotely akin to Biblical doctrine.
The effect of all of the agony, anxiety, and weariness on the part of those congregations who have remained faithful to God’s word regarding the organization and the worship and work of His church is that it robs us of time to develop a greater awareness of the presence of God. As a result, many of God’s children and His churches are not growing or thriving because of a diminished, or lack of, proper awareness of God. Most Christians are very knowledgeable about the historical Jesus and the Church is also very thorough in teaching or preaching about the Christ who is to come. But, the omnipresent God is not missing now and never has been absent from His people! God is present because He is love (1 John 4:8). The Lord promised “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5). Pessimism is, very often, an emotional response to a seemingly unsolvable problem - it is, primarily, a personal opinion or attitude. Our anxieties and pessimism would be relieved if we would but remember that “in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Especially at times of turmoil or assault upon His people and His church, we should emphasize the Lord’s presence! We must never forget that “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Hebrews 13:6). Greater awareness of God’s presence would cure worry, bring peace and comfort, and restore our sense of mission. We can be assured of God’s presence as we adhere to the truth regarding our lives of dedication to Christianity and remain confident that God has made a promise that He will not break – that He will always be with, and providentially care for, His faithful children.
The LORD hasn’t gone anywhere – He’s still here! Times change, circumstances may be different, but our problems are, essentially, the same. Let’s work together and encourage one another to develop individually and collectively in our relationships with God. We will be much more effective in our daily lives, in our worship, in our work of service –in our fellowship - when we remain keenly aware that God is in our presence - ALWAYS! May God continue to bless us – the Ripon family of God rooted in Christ - in our service to Him.
600 West Milgeo - Ripon California 95366